So here we are, six weeks out and I’ve been reflecting lately on all the things I’ve learnt whilst wedding planning. By the time we marry we’ll have been engaged for two years and actively wedding planning for 18 months. At the start of this journey (yes I despise myself for being that person – but it has been a journey), I was shocked by the number of people saying wedding planning is stressful, and honestly wondered what could possibly be stressful about planning a day to celebrate the union of yourself and the person you have chosen as your life partner. Hahahahahahahaha. How naive was I?!
I should point out that I am a massive overthinker, people pleaser and general worrier, so there are parts of wedding planning that have been actual hell on earth. You may be married reading this and have sailed through yours and wonder what the hell I’m on about. Below are the 10 lessons I have learned from my personal experience of planning a wedding, and what I would tell my former self if I could!
1. It’s OK to change your mind (as many times as you like)
We originally planned to get married in Seville, Spain where I used to live and where we spent our first year together in a ‘long-distance’ relationship. Having so much sentimental value and having attended the most incredible Spanish wedding in a hacienda a few years ago, it fit with our vision at the time. Fast forward to a visit to Seville and 10 different haciendas, a weekend full of me interpreting between the non-English speaking vendors and our non-Spanish speaking families, I quickly realised that there was no way we could (or would want!) to pull this off. A recurring conversation for the entirety of the wedding planning has been ‘but I thought you wanted/planned/ liked (insert aspect here)’ and it’s been a case of ‘I did, but I’ve changed my mind’. There are so many decisions, choices, twists and turns that changes are inevitable. You are allowed to change your mind. That being said, the sooner you make a decision the better. I spent hours stewing over bridesmaid gifts, table centrepieces, decoration etc. until I got so fatigued with it all that I just made a decision to be done with it. And I think that was the lesson. Things became so much easier when I made a decision and stuck with it, and stopped dwelling or thinking about other options. I just wish I’d learnt that one sooner!
2. Go with your gut
This one I can’t stress enough. I’ve really learnt to trust my intuition – and then make decisions using it. I must have tried on over 100 dresses (I’m not even exagerrating!) and my dress was one of just two that made me tear up when I put it on and saw myself. It’s beautiful. I’ve learnt to go with my gut and do exactly what I want (of course working with James), because it’s our wedding. That’s the beauty of planning your wedding – it’s personal to you. Pick and choose whatever you like. We aren’t having a cake, but my lovely Dad will absolutely be walking me down the aisle. We’re not getting married in a church but we’ll be having a sit down meal and speeches, and I will be taking James’s surname. As such, in years to come we won’t be regretful of the decisions we wish we’d made. Not everyone will like what you choose, and that’s OK. They don’t have to, as long as you do. If you stay true to yourself, you’ll have the best day. This doesn’t make you a bride or groomzilla, it means you have enough self-respect and confidence to go ahead with your own desires.
I like organising and wanted to take on the feat of planning our entire wedding. Two months out and it’s just not worth losing sleep over when you’ll find the time to buy and arrange candles, add ribbons to jars, or how you’ll make mini flower arrangements to decorate the already beautiful venue. There are people who want to help, have the time to help, and are talented enough to help (my Mum’s creations are good enough to do them professionally I swear!). Pick your battles, delegate what doesn’t mean so much to you and devote your energy to what does. I knew I wanted to paint things for the wedding and one of my favourite weekends so far was with my baby (18 year old) sister doing so. We spent two whole days in beautiful weather, painting and boxing off a huge wedding DIY task, whilst listening to music and getting excited for my hen do. It was brilliant (though we agree we NEVER want to see that damn paint again!).
Speaking of my hen do – this is the biggest one I’ve delegated. I was ademant to be involved in my hen planning as I felt guilty making my bridesmaids do all the work. I was concerned about people paying too much, taking time off work – generally putting themselves out, and I wanted to minimalise inconvenience. After much wrestling and convincing, I relinquished control and let my girls do their work. This weekend I’ll be on my hen, in an unknown destination, not knowing a single detail aside from a few clothing essentials. And I. Cannot. Wait. I don’t know how I would have planned the hen as well as the wedding, and I will be forever indebted to them for knowing me better than I know myself!
4. A wedding is a day, a marriage is (hopefully) forever
The wedding industry is ridiculous. There are SO many services you could have to enhance your day. Our wedding could have doubled in cost if I’d succumbed to the additions! Photobooths, magicians, ice cream carts, sweet stands, singers, dancers, gospel choirs, fireworks, even llamas. It was so overwhelming and made me worry I had to do all this extra stuff. I went to a wedding fair with my two best friends and one of them (who is beautiful inside and out) commented on how insecure she was left feeling after seeing all of the services encouraging – no – telling people they need to improve themselves. From teeth whitening to dental work, to weight loss programmes and cosmetic surgery (yes I’m serious). It’s one day of your life, if you want to have a transformational makeover by all means go for it! But the cost for services just to enhance one day seemed absurd to me. It was important to me not to let it all go to my head (which I have to admit – it did at times!).
5. Wedding planning is hard
There are times you will wonder why you’ve done this and where it went so wrong. You’ll have to make guest list compromises due to spatial constraints at the venue, and this will upset you greatly. You’ll battle with peoples’ unwarranted opinions (I was told once that I’m not a feminist if I take James’s last name!). You’ll be stung with additional costs and wonder where you’ll get the money when you’re already saving everything you can. You’ll feel generally exhausted and not want to hear the word ‘wedding’. You’ll become frustrated and discouraged watching vendor prices rise the minute you say ‘wedding’. Decision fatigue is a thing. There are too many decisions to make and so many options you’ll like, it will feel impossible to choose one. You’ll panic about whether people will have a bad time at your wedding. More importantly what if you don’t enjoy it? Will you regret not getting the photobooth even though you can’t stand them because apparently they’re fun to everybody else? Should we have paid even more money in order to put on some form of display or entertainment so our guests are impressed and remember our wedding for years to come? No. There are so many additions and fun things you could do to enhance the day (I mean, I did desperately want glitter face painters!) but where do you draw the line? It’s one day and people are coming to share in your celebration of marriage, not to see what sort of show you put on – see point 4. Embrace simplicity and remember why you’re doing this.
6. You will become an emotional wreck
Did somebody say ‘marriage’? Sob. Look at our beautiful invitations, sob. Remember the night we met? Sob. Awww you did something really thoughtful, extra sob. I don’t think there’s been a day this year especially that I haven’t cried or welled up at some point. Riley did a head tilt the other day and looked so beautiful that I welled up. People talk about pregnancy hormones but there is definitely such thing as wedding hormones, and I have got them so bad. I got emotional because James’s stag was finally here and I was so happy for him that everybody made such an effort to celebrate. My wonderful friends got us a wedding gift and gave it to us early – it was something we have wanted for so long. I’ve been crying since. OK, I’m joking now, (I did cry when they gave it to me though!) but you get my point!
7. It’s OK not to have a pinterest board.
Excuse the profanities but I fucking hate pinterest. I had vendors who said to me ‘What do you mean you don’t have a pinterest board?! You’re a bride, you have to have one’. Actually I don’t. Get in the bin.
8. Be mindful and reasonable
People and things will disappoint you, it’s inevitable. Don’t get hung up on the small disappointments – there are plenty of joys and the quicker you learn to focus on these, the less you’ll be disappointed. Your wedding will almost certainly not be the priority in someone else’s life, so don’t expect too much from people. Instead, embrace the happiness and people who are sharing with you! There are times you’ll feel disappointed, exhausted, frustrated and even ugly (cue a horrific hair and make up trial that left me wanting to hide away for an entire millenium and battling the prospect that maybe I won’t look beautiful on my wedding day), but you’ll get through them. Be mindful that it is temporary, and know that the joy will return, it absolutely will.
9. Enjoy being a team
We have been on the same team from day one, the only thing that has ever really been important to me is that we agree on everything we do, and if we don’t agree then we do our fair share of compromising. Our wedding, at times, has felt like it’s us against the world, but that’s really been the most wonderful thing. Marriage is about compromise, teamwork and respect for each other and wedding planning has certainly laid the foundations for this. James has kept me on track, kept me grounded and reminded me why we’re doing this. He’s seen me at my worst (I definitely let the madness of wedding planning go to my head a few times!), pulled me back to reality and made everything feel bearable again. I couldn’t imagine a better teammate to share it all with.
10. Savour it. All of it.
People say to me ‘what will you do when it’s over?’ Honestly, I don’t know. Right now I think I’ll feel OK, be happy to have a life again, be happy to have a bit of spare cash and just generally enjoy being married. But that’s because I have made sure to savour every moment, including the stressful ones which have taught me a lesson. We have had a good amount of time planning, I’ve had my fun and it really has been the most wonderful two years. I’ll be sad to no longer have our hen, stag and wedding to look forward to, but also excited to enjoy our marriage (I still can’t write ‘our’ and ‘marriage’ in the same sentence without tearing up!). The things we’ve done with our families and friends have been amazing. The days James and I spent driving to venues, spending hours together talking, laughing, making decisions, tactfully pretending to be interested when we wanted to run a mile (cue Hugh Hefner lookalike venue owner dripping in diamonds showing us wedding suite with leopard skin rug and full length mirror above bed and giving us that suggestive look) are days I’ll cherish forever. The times spent sat together listening to our favourite music and choosing the soundtrack for our day, deciding what we do and don’t want and what we imagine our day to be like has been so wonderful. Seeing it all coming together is priceless.
And if I haven’t bored you to death and you’re still here reading this, I’ll end on this. Everybody is rooting for you. I swear I have friends who are more excited than us. I can’t walk anywhere in work without colleagues asking me ‘how’s the planning?’ or ‘how long to the big day?’, and it’s such a beautiful thing to take a step back from the stresses and realise just how many people are excited for you. In six weeks’ time, we’ll be making our lifelong commitment to each other and I can’t wait to celebrate our love and share it with our families and friends. It’s lovely to think that almost 10 years to the day that I met and became instantly besotted with a gorgeous 18 year old ‘indie’ lad with long hair, a polo shirt and cardigan in 5th Ave, we’d be committing to one another in the most beautiful way. 43 days to go until the wedding, but first, my hen!
Absolutely true all of it. I just wished i could have read this before i planned ours. But saying that i wouldnt change anything. I especially celebrate the untraditional stuff we did as we felt strongly about them and afterwards we were told they made the wedding. Im so glad i stuck to the idea of having my purple dress. I still look at our wedding pics and feel proud that it suited my hair colour etc and the way i felt a million dollars on the day in it. One thing that amazed us was the guests reaction after the fact. In the five years since we have lost two dear female family members that loved the wedding day and spoke of it fondly. We felt as though we’d given them a priceless gift. The revelations wont end at the end of the day. I will look forward to reading your thoughts on this after your celebration. Lots of love Alison F. Xx